Thursday, November 27, 2008

giving thanks

Thanksgiving Day, 2008

8:20 AM

Clear and cold. Bright and still. A sleepless night, but a fine morning. I was out throwing the ball for Chloe. Watching her run back and forth. Back and forth. Chasing and retrieving the ball dozens of times before stopping short on her last run. She dropped the ball twenty feet away from me, by the big cottonwood, decided that was enough for this morning.

My intentions were to come here first thing. The coffee was done and poured. Dogs and cats fed. And all I wanted was to get into this chair and at these keys. But as I sat down to write, there she was. Chloe. Ole Slobbery. Looking in at me through the window. Ball in her mouth.

We made eye contact.

She dropped the ball.

I took a sip of coffee.

She picked up the ball.

I set the coffee down.

She dropped the ball.

There was no use trying to write when it was clear she wanted to play. So I put on my boots, gloves and coat. Took my hot mug with me. Headed outside. A great beginning to a thankful day. Breathing the fresh morning air. The smell and taste of it not yet spoiled by heavy traffic. The birds filling silence with morning song. The sound of squirrels in bare trees. And Chloe's paws crunching through leaves. Inside, I could hear S.B. doing dishes. Washing cups and the pizza pan leftover from last night. Putting away plates and sliverware that had dried. I took a deep breath. Held it. Savored all moments—good and bad—that have led to this, then exhaled all of them away.

It is our first Thanksgiving together. I am happy to be celebrating it in our own little home. In the Garden City. With my wife and my son. It's not that I don't want to see our relatives and friends or be away from our roots up north. But it's going to be nice to have Thanksgiving to ourselves. We can make the bird, stuffing, potatoes and pie. Watch football. Fill up. Then relax. Watch movies. Play. Read. Do whatever it is we want to do. The important thing is that we are together.

I've wasted many moments in my life. Looking for answers without asking the right questions. Searching desperately in the dark for someone or something to hold onto, instead of moving toward the light. I've drank away my senses many a Thanksgiving eve, only to wake halfway through turkey dinner the next day. Surrouned by family and friends. Immersed in hope and the potential for happiness. But too hungover with selfishness and regret to understand the importance of any of it.

"Jesus Christ, say Grace already. Get it over with. There's food to eat! Football on the tube! A recliner calling my name!"

All my Mom wanted to do was say a little prayer before dinner. Give thanks and enjoy the company. But when you're looking out for number one, full of yourself and stepped in ignorance, it's impossible to see what someone else might want, or need. And so that's all it was ever about for me. Eat and drink, watch a football game through the fits and starts of restless afternoon sleep.

But now, that's changed. I am clear-headed. As bright as the morning sky. As fresh as the air. And I am thankful for S.B., thankful for Little Man, thankful for my Mom, Dad and brothers. Thankful for my in-laws. Thankful for everything that's been good, that's been bad, that's got me here. To an early Thanksgiving morning. Still alive and kickin'. Full of memory, but focused on the hope of the day.

~ K.J.

(copyright © 2008 by K.J. Stevens)

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